Posted in Bon Appetite, Drinks Galore, Festivals/Special Events, Gift Giving

#516 Throw a Surprise Party

My favorite so far is the surprise birthday party my sister and I threw for our mom a few years ago.

This was one of those milestone birthday’s (I won’t say which one so she can’t get mad at me) My sister and I wanted to make sure to do something special. Her birthday is at the end of July and there were several years she had to celebrate it at a swim meet.

I had gone to a friend’s wedding at a little winery not far from our house. It was super cute and their wines were pleasant to taste. I had the place in mind right away when we started discussing this. AND it would serve as a great cover of getting her to it, by using the excuse of wine tasting and then lunch.

We created a list of family and friends and sent out invites. This was my first time planning a big-ish event like this. Lots of little details became clear. Not to mention costs. There was the location, food, drinks, cake, decorations.

My uncle (her brother) was very helpful with the planning and when I became worried about having the money for it all, said he would be willing to help cover the cost of the food. My cousin was dating (and now married to) a very nice gal whose family managed a food place (Armadillo Willy’s). They talked and worked out that they would bring the food as a buffet. It was a perfect choice because it was food we knew my mom would enjoy, especially the coleslaw (side note: I am not much for coleslaw but this one is very yummy).

Next up was ordering a fruit basket cake from Whole Foods. That part wasn’t hard at all. The hard part was getting my sis here from Hawaii and making sure not to blow the party to our mom. I was living in an apartment at the time, so she was able to fly in and stay with me without mom being aware. She went to our house during the day, while mom was at work, and looked for photos to use as part of decorations. We found some fun ones of her throughout her life.

My sis thought she was being clever in setting up a call to mom to make it seem like she was still in Hawaii going about her daily routine. I just had to make sure not to say anything about the party when my mom was around.

We almost got away without her being completing aware, but then the winery made the mistake in calling her house phone instead of my cell phone. They wanted to make sure I was sending the final payment for the event. I was SOOOOO PISSED! It worked out in the end because, as my mom said, I didn’t need to come up with an excuse and she didn’t know what or who might be there.

The day of, we went to the farmer’s market to get a bunch of flowers. Then headed to the winery. Our uncle and family was there to help set up the food and when a few other guests got there a little early, gladly helped us finish setting up tables. We had bought glass jars from Goodwill that we filled with the flowers and then had the photos placed at the different tables. The winery had a table for the wines and set up another one for the cake and any presents people brought. I had a little stereo that had music, but it was small so people couldn’t really hear it (turned out to be unnecessary anyway). Being at the end of July, I wasn’t sure if it’d be super hot like it can often times be. Luckily it was only warm with a slight breeze coming over from the river nearby.

Then I went to go get the guest of honor.

One last thing, the week before my mom had gone out to dinner with a friend. They decided to get a bottle of wine and asked the waitress for a recommendation. She mentioned Scribner Bend to try. My mom came home to tell me that we have to check out this winery and that the wine was very nice. I almost said something then, but I was able to stop myself. Was very glad to know she would enjoy the wine.

So, I went and got her and came back to the winery. Now, where we all were was in the middle of some of the vines, so she couldn’t see it right away. She walked through the flower arch and everyone yelled, “SURPRISE!!” and she was. There were a few people she hadn’t seen in a while. But when she noticed my sister hiding in the back, she said “I KNEW you were here!” Later, she admitted she didn’t really, but had hoped.

In the end, it was a very pleasant afternoon and so fun. Definitely a surprise party to remember and cherish.

Have you thrown a surprise party or been the recipient of one?

Posted in Bon Appetite, Drinks Galore

Recipe #9 – Tarragon Mustard-Crusted Scallops

“Everyday Dining with Wine”

Read about this ongoing cookbook challenge here

16 large sea scallops, patted dry
Dijon mustard
Fresh tarragon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground white pepper
Unsalted butter
Olive oil

Wine recommendations:

Barrel-Aged Savignon Blanc / Semillon Blends , Murphy-Goode Fume Blanc, Dry Creek Fume Blanc (California), DeLille Chaleur Estate Blanc (Washington), Chateau La Louviere, Chateau Rahoul (France)

I found a Murphy-Goode Savignon BlancMy Review:
Scallops are a bit on the expensive side, so we only bought a dozen (6 for each of us). The flavor came out great with the scallops. I was thinking, it’s not really crusted and then realized as I was typing this that I forgot to pat the scallops dry so the mix would coat them more. I was a little nervous cooking them, as this was my first time and I know how easy it is to overcook scallops. But I think I did it just right.

Savignon Blancs are usually pretty tart tasting to me so I don’t often get them and this wine choice was just okay. This did go great with the scallops though.

Overall I wouldn’t mind making this dish again.

Posted in Bon Appetite, Drinks Galore, Festivals/Special Events, Home Town

I Sat Next to a Killer

Yup, you read that correctly. I sat next to a killer and had dinner with him at my table, and I am here to tell you about it.

A couple of my friends; “Penny” and “Lizzy” sent me a message asking if I’d like to join them for dinner on the Delta King. This is a docked steamboat located in Old Sacramento that has been turned into a hotel and restaurant. I quickly sent back a message saying, heck ya! I had dinner there as a kid, but couldn’t remember how it looked inside the boat and since it was the last Friday of the year, it’d be a treat.

I met up with the two friends and we headed to the bar for a pre-dinner cocktail. Loved the wooden ambiance. While we were deciding on a cocktail, the bartender was making a drink that caught our attention it was white and had chocolate in a martini glass. Lizzy and I decided to order that and we all split an order of fried calamari.

I have been getting better about asking other people to take a photo so I can make sure I am in some. What I now need to work on is asking; “Can you take a photo of us?” NOT “Can you take a photo?” Otherwise I’ll end up with more of these kind of photos


Then we ventured down to the restaurant and sat down. The tables were set up like they would be on a cruise ship, so the three of us were at a table with 8 other people. There was one older couple with the wife celebrating her birthday, two pairs of couples out enjoying the dinner together, and another couple. This was also a pre-fixed dinner with a salad, main entree, and a dessert. The guy from the couple was seated to my left and he leaned over to us before dinner started saying that he was going to propose to his girlfriend and would like us to video tape it. We all thought that such a sweet thing and said yes, of course.

Dinner was good, and we had entertainment provided by the Delta King staff. The host that seated us came over a few times to make sure we were enjoying ourselves and he was quite the character, always had a joke and made us crack up. During the main course (I had the pasta, and Penny and Lizzy had the beef). The guy to my left got up and got a microphone and proposed. She said yes and we all clapped for them.

But it was while we were enjoying our cheesecake desert that a cop came in to announce there was a killer in our mist and we were all suspects. He asked the guy to my left to stand up and started grilling him, the guy was darting his eyes around, and getting very anxious when he suddenly pulled a gun on the cop. His new fiance ran and got the cop’s gun. The guy had been drinking redbull all night, he said it was his favorite drink, so his hands were shaky and he ended up killing the host and his finance. It was terrible.

We all just clapped and they got up, went to the front and took a bow. Yup, I just experienced my first murder mystery dinner. Did I have you going?

It was so much fun and I highly recommend going to a dinner performance like that. Who knows, you might be sitting next to the killer.

The host
The actors
We made up names for the evening “Penny, Lizzy, & Shelly Lane”


Posted in Bon Appetite, Generic Ones, Super Duper Easy

#758 – Make Your Own Lunch

Not really sure why this is a “must do before you die” item listed in the book. Maybe because we’ve gotten to the point where one can easily never make their own lunches. It’s either made for the person (like when we are kids and our parents made them) or fast food, store bought pre-made stuff, or going to places like subway.

During the weekday, I am able to come home at lunchtime and make something to eat and relax. Every once in a while, I’ve made a salad the night before. Typically I’ll have a wheat wrap, a slice of cheese, and two slices of turkey. No mayo and often no mustard (because I am lazy and don’t want to add the extra bit of effort) So, while it’s a bit dry, I’m fine with it.

lunch 1Then I’ll add chips or fruit.

And Bon Appetite! Mission accomplished for this book item!

Do you make your own lunch?

Posted in Bon Appetite, Drinks Galore

Recipe #7 & #8 – Shrimp Ceviche & Tomato Salad

“Everyday Dining with Wine”

Read about this ongoing cookbook challenge here

This time I made 2 recipes to enjoy side by side, so I only had one of the wine suggested pairings for my meal.

Summer Tomato Salad:
ripe homegrown, farm-stand, or heirloom tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
sherry vinegar
fresh lovage or chives
pumpkinseed oil
Manchego cheese (can also use parmigiano-reggiano or aged monterey jack)
(I added some bell peppers)

Shrimp Ceviche with avocado, cilantro, and lime:
coconut milk
dry white wine
saffron, tabasco sauce, cilantro
lime juice
(I added radishes)

Wine recommendations:
for the salad – New World Sauvignon Blanc (Brancott, Nautilus or Canyon Road, Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc)
for the ceviche – Sparking Wine (Aria Cava Extra Dry or Argyle Brut or Italian Vermentino)

I chose the Ferrari-Carano Fume BlancMy Review:
They paired very well together. I forgot to buy pumpkinseed oil so not sure how much of a difference in taste it would be in the salad. Either way, I would definitely make both again. My mom and I like to talk about other ways to try new recipes we eat, and both thought adding kalamata olives would go well here.

For the ceviche, very yummy! I would probably not do the radishes again. And I see how having tomatoes in it, helps offset some of the hot sauce and shallot taste. Next time, I want to add some green apples in it and see how that tartness might go.

Posted in Bon Appetite, Drinks Galore

Recipe #6 Seared Pork Tenderloin

“Everyday Dining with Wine”

Read about this ongoing cookbook challenge here

dried porcini mushrooms
chicken broth or water
olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, thyme
shiitake mushrooms
pork tenderloins (only I grabbed pork chops by accident)
red wine
dried figs
red wine vinegar

Wine Recommendations:
French Red Burgundy or Oregon and California Pinot Noirs

I chose Bogle Pinot Noir (from a California winery basically down the street)My Review:

making the sauce takes the most amount of time but it is full of flavor and good to go on top of the pork. I would make this again.

Posted in Bon Appetite, Drinks Galore

Recipe #5 – Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Nutmeg & Balsamic Vinegar

“Everyday Dining with Wine”

Read about this ongoing cookbook challenge here

large spaghetti squash
olive oil, balsamic vinegar salt/ground white pepper, unsalted butter, light brown sugar
grated nutmeg
finely chopped smoked almonds (optional)
(I added garlic)

Wine Recommendations:
Dry Riesling – Paul Blank (Alsace, France)
Slightly sweet Riesling – Hogue (Columbia Valley, Washington State)
Dry Gewurztraminer – Hugel (Alsace, France)My Review:
She wrote that it could serve two as a main course or four as a side dish. Well a large squash makes for A LOT of spaghetti. (side note: that shell is pretty hard to cut in) The first night I made it for a main course. There was lots leftover for my mom and I. I really liked the taste of the balsamic and nutmeg. I used smokehouse almonds and ground them a little to fine but they also added a nice flavor to it all.

I couldn’t find those wine choices at the store, so I went with my favorite Riesling – Chateau St. Michelle. It worked very well together. The dish was tasty, but it seem pretty plain. And having just the vegetable didn’t make for a full, healthy meal.

The second night, I added some chicken and wanted to add feta cheese but it had gone bad so we didn’t use it.

Posted in Bon Appetite, Drinks Galore, Festivals/Special Events, Requires Travel, Sporty Chance/Heart Stopping Adventures

Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany

I went to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany around 2002. I thought I’d write up a condensed list of some of stories/memories/experiences I had. I would LOVE to go to Oktoberfest again sometime, especially since I only was there one evening.

What I learned from my First Oktoberfest adventure in Germany:

  • Don’t wait until the day before to decide to go. You’ll only be able to get a room at a B & B outside of Munich in the middle of no-where.
  • Learned that Dachau is a little town outside of Munich, not just a concentration camp. Did you know that?
  • Don’t forget how you got to the B & B, you’ll need that information later
  • Learned they had carnival type rides there. Whoa, is that really a good idea?
  • Don’t be with people that decide to bring a little baby. They won’t let you in the tents/halls where there is beer, food, and fun music and dancing because of all the smoking that fills the air.
  • Beer and some food are available outside, and tables, but it looked more fun inside
  • If you are with people with a baby, you can sneak some free beersteins out, maybe. otherwise you have to buy them
  • Be careful handing your phone off to friends as a precaution to getting split up. Your dad might call to say hi and that friend will have a conversation with him, who has no idea who the person is. Luckily, I was nearby to grab the phone.
  • Do not lean against walls, ever! If you wonder why they are wet, just wait, you will see why lines to the guys bathrooms are so short.
  • You make all kinds of friends sitting at the long tables, sometimes you can understand each other and other times you just smile, laugh, and go along with what each of you are saying even though you have no clue.
  • Shepherding drunk friends back to the train station requires more than one sober person to help, depending on the group
  • You might think Dachau was small in the daylight and easy to navigate the roads, but at night the roads all become circles.
  • It’s spooky driving right past the remains of the concentration camp, especially when you realize that’s what it is and had never seen it. Don’t let your drunk friends convince you to stop to check it out. Don’t worry I didn’t let them.
  • Once you finally get on the road to the B & B in the middle of no-where, try not to get stuck with a train going through. The drunk friends in their wife beaters will try to speak to the occupants in another car for directions. Whether they understood the slurred English or attempts at German are unknown.
  • Make sure you can get into the B & B in the late evening. It took a while for someone to unlock the door
  • Make sure the couple with the baby have diapers. There are no places to buy some in Germany as everything is closed on Sundays.
  • Don’t forget a camera to take photos of all these antics, especially if you need proof when telling some one what they did
only photo I have, this is Dachu’s concentration camp ruins

Have you been to the Oktoberfest in Germany?  Or other big Oktoberfests? Crazy adventures to share? Been to Dachau?

Posted in Bon Appetite, Drinks Galore

Recipe #4 – Chicken Breasts with Prosciutto & Sage

“Everyday Dining with Wine”

Read about this ongoing cookbook challenge here

Chicken breasts
Sage leaves
Olive Oil and Dry Oloroso Sherry

Wine Recommendations:
Italian Nebbiolo, Pio Cesare Nebbiolo d’Alba, Vallana Spanna, Travaglini Gattinara, Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco, Massolino Barolo

I couldn’t find any of these so I bought a Tre Donne Barbari Nebbiolo
My Review:
Her recipe makes for six. I didn’t need to make all the chicken, so I bought 2. Ended up splitting one breast with my mom. It was very easy to make. I guess you only need to use one prosciutto slice per chicken, but I used 2 on each one.

A nice change from having just plain chicken.

Posted in Bon Appetite, Requires Travel

#1778 Enjoy the Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity

Apparently the original one is located in New York, and that’s the main one people said I had to go to. When I was looking around for “things to do” in Las Vegas, I came across a Serendipity there near Caesar’s. I had hoped to be able to go and enjoy a frozen hot chocolate. On the last day, a friend and I went walking around and got there for brunch. We walked up and gave our names to reservations. She took down my friend’s phone number and that became our pager when a table was ready for us. That was pretty neat. It allowed us to be able to walk through the stores at Caesars.

When we were seated, my friend decided to get one of their sandwiches. I went with a Banana Cream waffle. Both were quite large in size but very yummy.

Then we got the main treat. a Frozen Hot Chocolate. I assumed there was only one type, but they had a few different ones. Both of us decided on the Mint one. It tasted like liquid Andes chocolates. VERY YUMMY!!

Interesting enough they spell it as Frrrozen Hot Chocolate. And you can order to make and have some at home. Might just have to do that.

Have you been and had the frozen hot chocolate? Which Serendipity? 



Posted in Bon Appetite, Drinks Galore

Recipe #3 – Charred Corn Salad with Avocados and Orzo Recipe

“Everyday Dining with Wine”

Read about this ongoing cookbook challenge here

fresh corn, husked
extra virgin olive oil / sherry vinegar/ cilantro / salt / black pepper
red bell pepper
orzo pasta

(I had added shrimp)

Wine recommendations:

New World Barrel-Fermented Chardonnay like Canyon Road, St. Francis, Cambria Julia’s Vineyard (California wines), or Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre (Chile)

I had it with Sterling Chardonnay My Review:
I really liked this one. Charring the corn on a grill adds a different flavor than if you just cooked it. And she has you cook the avocado in oil for a sauce. It’s a keeper and can change it up by adding protein like chicken, shrimp, or meat.

Posted in Bon Appetite, Drinks Galore

Recipe #2 – Angel Hair Pasta with Smoked Salmon and Edamame “Pesto”

“Everyday Dining with Wine”

Read about this ongoing cookbook challenge here

angel hair pasta
smoked salmon
frozen edamame
cilantro leaves / basil leaves / garlic cloves / ground white pepper / sea salt
olive oil / toasted sesame oil

Wine recommendations: 

Italian Vermentino – Sella & Mosca Vermentino or Sparkling Wine – Nino Franco Prosecco (Italy), Iron Horse Russian Cuvee Sparkling Wine (California)My Review: 

I had tried to make it a faster recipe by using a package of smoked salmon and it turned out not very good. Didn’t care much for the “pesto” sauce of it either.

Posted in Bon Appetite, Drinks Galore

Recipe #1 – Plantain Crusted Chicken

“Everyday Dining with Wine”

Read about this ongoing cookbook challenge here

Plantain chips or unsweetened banana chips
dry mustard / dried thyme / allspice / ground cloves / kosher salt / ground black pepper
hot sauce
all-purpose flour
boneless, skinless chicken breasts
vegetable oil

Wine recommendations: California Central Coast Chardonnay
Lockwood, Morgan, Estancia, Bryon, Calera, Au Bon Climat

Picked up a chardonnay from Edna Valley

My Review:
The crust part got a bit overcooked and the chicken almost wasn’t cooked all the way through. I was able to finish cooking the chicken but worried that the crust wouldn’t taste good. Not a absolute favorite but it was a different tasty way to eat chicken.

Posted in Bon Appetite

#1313 – Eat One Raisinet at a Time

image (1)I wasn’t sure why this would be a bucket list item. But when I got a box of raisinets and opened them, I understood. Shaking out into my hand, I had a whole bunch and I just wanted to throw them into my mouth. It takes patience and control to just pick up one little chocolate covered raisin and put in the mouth. I solved this by putting them into a bowl and leaving it on the kitchen counter. Whenever I go by it, I pick one raisinet up and eat it. Doing it this way is taking a lot longer to finish the box but it’s kind of fun.

How would you get yourself to eat one piece of candy at a time when you would rather throw a mouthful in?

Posted in Bon Appetite, Generic Ones, Requires Travel, Super Duper Easy

#529 – Eat a Hot Tamale

This could be for eating the candy ~ Hot tamales


or for eating the dish. By definition a tamale is “A Mexican dish of seasoned meat wrapped in cornmeal dough and steamed or baked in corn husks”

tamaleI’ve enjoyed hot tamales wrapped in corn husks several times from the grocery store. In 2012, I was coming home from a trip and had a layover at an airport in El Salvador. While there I had my first experience of eating a tamale that had been wrapped in grape leaves. It didn’t taste all that different.


What are some different ways you have received and eaten a hot tamale?